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Gleeson receives papal blessing


It’s not every day your school receives a letter and blessing from the Pope – but that is exactly what happened at Gleeson College this month.

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College APRIM (Assistant Principal Religious Identity and Mission) Monica Doherty was “over the moon” when an envelope with the papal crest lobbed on her desk in mid-June.

Inside was a letter written on behalf of Pope Francis, imparting an apostolic blessing on the Gleeson College community.

The blessing followed a series of emails sent by Monica to the Vatican, in which she explained how she was trying to find new ways of keeping the Catholic identity “alive” in the school community during COVID-19.

“My idea was to capture the attention of our students and staff by creating a virtual liturgy which was interesting and different,” Monica said.

“I was delighted to have Fr Philip Marshall agree to be involved and read the Gospel and give the school community a blessing in the video. I then approached the Bishop of my former diocese in Scotland, who also spoke beautifully to our students and staff and blessed us too.”

Monica, who was born in Scotland and also lived in Ireland for some time before emigrating to Australia, said the Scottish Bishop was helpful in suggesting ways to get in touch with the Vatican.

“I was lucky enough to get a contact for the head of the Papal house in Rome and I then wrote a few times to Pope Francis, in both English and Italian,” she explained.

“Weeks later I was sitting working and I received a letter. My eyes were drawn to the Papal Coat of Arms and my heart skipped a beat!

“Finally I got my answer and was over the moon that the Pope had passed on a message and blessing to our community.”

Gleeson principal Joe Corbo admitted he had a few tears in his eyes and was “totally amazed” when he heard the school had received an “old fashioned letter” from the Pope.

“It was so wonderful to receive an apostolic blessing and it has certainly provided a bright light during the challenging times that have been brought on us by COVID-19.

“Monica’s efforts have shown that perseverance pays off and that Pope Francis is indeed thinking of everyone at this time,”

Year 9 students Kane Halfpenny and Abby Hall, who are both in Ms Doherty’s Religious Education class, said it was an honour for their school to receive a blessing from the Pope.

“It’s amazing to think that the Pope has our community in his thoughts and prayers, we feel very blessed and honoured to be reached out to all the way in Golden Grove,” Kane said.

“I am sure that he (Pope Francis) is very busy, but to take a moment to respond to our school is something that we will remember for a very long time,” Abby added.

Staff members were also thrilled to hear of the letter from Pope Francis. Some of their comments included:

“What an exciting response to receive from the papal office and this demonstrates how we must be brave and seek out connections. Monica’s commitment to connect our college with others in the world was an exciting journey to hear about. Each step of the way all I could do was smile.” – Kathy Marusic, teacher

“I knew if anyone could make this happen it would be Monica. Her communication was written with such love and good intent, her passion and faith is so clearly evident through her words. This is a beautiful example of reaching out, taking a leap to make a connection and such a wonderful outcome. A true piece for our college history.” – Kate Morgante, assistant principal

“I remember when Monica first brought up the idea of trying to get in touch with the Vatican and thinking, there is no way in the world that that is going to happen. But to her credit, she kept persisting and what a wonderful moment for our college to be recognised within the Catholic Church.” – Carlo Librino, teacher and old scholar

“I was lucky enough to be the person who handed the sealed envelope to Monica. Her reaction was a fixture of tears and laughter for about 30 seconds, but it wasn’t until she began to skip around the staff room, that I knew she had received a very special piece of correspondence!” – Katrina Greenshields, receptionist

The letter has now been framed and is proudly on display in the newly completed Micah Centre.

Dated June 3 and signed by assessor Monsignor L Roberto Cona, it reads:

Dear Ms Doherty,

The Holy Father has received your letter, and he has asked me to thank you. He appreciates the sentiments which prompted you to write to him.

His Holiness will remember you, and all those at Gleeson Catholic College, in his prayers. Invoking upon you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.


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